ZIMBABWE’s coffee production has declined by 16% to 430 tonnes in the 2017/18 season mainly due to price volatility and high costs of production, an official has said.
By FREEMAN MAKOPA
In the previous season, production was 510 tonnes.
Department of Research and Specialist Services principal research economist, Freeman Gutsa said the subsector critically needs urgent attention as it is literally on a nose-diving trajectory.
Gutsa said over the past period, the policy and institutional support frameworks were only favouring cereals.
“Slowly, coffee production became unattractive and due to the proliferation of alternative and competing crops, farmers in strategic regions such as the Eastern Highlands abandoned coffee plantations and in some instances uprooted coffee in preference for macadamia nuts, avocado and bananas,” he said.
“Influx of cheap processed coffee and increasing incidences of pests and diseases such as the white stem borer, coffee leaf minor, coffee berry borer, antesia bug, fusarium, leaf rust and coffee berry disease.”
Gutsa said coffee hectarage stood at 379 hectares down from 8 000 hectares at its peak.
“Currently, at national level, coffee is on about 379 hectares. Of this, 300 hectares is under 2 commercial farmers whilst only 79 hectares is under 392 small-scale farmers. At its peak, the country used to have about 8 000 hectares under coffee, more than 1000 small-scale coffee producers and 100 large-scale producers.
Zimbabwe can produce around 15 000 tonnes given the past experience, state-of-the-art coffee mills, firming average prices and perfect growing conditions for the beans in the country, particularly in the Eastern Highlands and other strategic districts such as Goromonzi, Guruve, Hurungwe and Makonde.
Of late, stakeholders in the sector working together with government and private players such as Technoserve, Palladium, FAO and IAPRI are working on a strategy to enhance the support, coordination and consequently coffee production.
The strategic vision for Zimbabwe is to build capacity in the sector to ensure that by 2027, about 5 000 tonnes are produced annually. This should then expand over years until production per annum hits 15 000 metric tonnes.
Gutsa said Zimbabwe used to produce about 15 000 tonnes of the best quality coffee (Coffee Arabica) alongside coffee producing giants such as Brazil, Kenya, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Uganda and Mexico. The sector used to employ more than 20 000 people, contributing more than 2% to the GDP and raking in about $54 million in foreign currency earnings. From early 2000, the coffee industry has been facing a decline amid increasing global demand for quality coffee.
There is high coffee demand and firming prices owing to renewed interest on the international arena including in the European Union, the US, Canada, Japan and Switzerland. Previously, prices were as low as $3,50/kg but have risen and are averaging $6 per kg depending on the class of the coffee.